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THE TREATY OF TORDESILLAS AND THE ARGEN- 
TINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 

By the award of President Grover Cleveland, in 1895, was 
terminated the vexed Argentine-Brazilian boundary dispute, 
which had its origin in the treaty of Tordesillas more than four 
hundred years before. This was only one of several territorial 
controversies growing out of the ambiguous agreement between 
Spain and Portugal, but it was the most serious, and the last to 
be settled on the old southern frontier of the two rival powers 
in South America. 

Jealousy of Spain as a result of the discoveries of Columbus 
was excited in the breast of John II. of Portugal even before 
the Admiral reached his home port after his first voyage; for 
unfavorable weather forced him to find shelter in a Portuguese 
harbor on his return trip, which led to an interview with King 
John, who thus learned of the result of Columbus's venture. 
The Portuguese king promptly claimed the newly-discovered 
lands, apparently basing his title upon a treaty made with Spain 
in 1479, which grew out of a grant of Pope Nicholas V. to Al- 
fonso V. of Portugal, made in 1456. 1 This papal bull is especially 
interesting as it shows Prince Henry the Navigator's intention, 
thirty years before Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope, to 
send expeditions as far as India. The bull gave to the Por- 
tuguese sovereign not only all territory which might be dis- 
covered south of the capes of Bojador and Nam "through 
Guinea", but also all lands beyond the southern coast of 
Africa "as far as the Indians". 

1 Frances G. Davenport (ed.), European Treaties bearing on the History of the 
United States audits Dependencies, to 1648, pp. 33-48. 

2 Ibid., pp. 9-33. 

3 



4 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

As "the land of the Indians", or the "Indies", was an indefi- 
nite term which applied to the whole region extending from east 
Africa to China and Japan, John II. seems to have thought that 
Columbus had visited these lands, merely following a different 
route from that in which Portugal had so long been interested. 

Shortly after Columbus had reported to his sovereigns the 
results of his voyage, Ferdinand and Isabella instructed their 
ambassadors at Rome to obtain from the Pope a grant of the 
new lands. Such a grant was secured May 3, 1493, by means 
of two bulls, which gave to Spain all the territories discovered 
by Columbus, or which he hoped to discover, "lying towards 
the western parts and the ocean sea" not already possessed by 
any other Christian prince. 3 And on May 4, within a few hours 
after these two grants, the Pope issued an additional bull quali- 
fying and explaining the preceding ones. This last document, 
couched in vague, contradictory half Latin, half Spanish terms, 
proclaimed the famous papal line of demarcation, which gave 
Spain all territory to the west of a meridian one hundred leagues 
to the west and south of the Azores and Cape Verde. 4 The fact 
that the Cape and the Azores islands were many degrees apart 
appears to have been overlooked by the Pope and his advisers, 
or ignored by them. Contrary to the common view, this line 
was not proclaimed as a result of a protest from Portugal, for 
that nation would have in no wise been satisfied with such a 
division. Rather, the papal line appears to have been the re- 
sult of specific instructions from the Catholic Sovereigns to 
their ambassadors at Rome to secure for Spain all lands to the 
west of Cape Verde and the Azores. 5 Pope Alexander VI. was 
a Spaniard and a personal friend of Ferdinand and was inclined 
to favor Spain; 6 but, in order to protect the territories granted 

3 Ibid., pp. 56-70. 
*Ibid., pp. 71-79. 

6 Henry Harrisse, The Diplomatic History of America: its First Chapter, pp. 
31-35. 

6 Davenport, Treaties, p. 56. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 5 

to Portugal by earlier bulls, he appears to have been induced 
by his scientific advisers to move the line desired by Spain one 
hundred leagues to the west. 7 

Portugal, since it claimed about a third of the world, includ- 
ing the lands discovered by Columbus, was much displeased 
by the arrangement secured by its rival, and was planning to 
make good its pretensions by resort to forcible measures when 
Spain suggested that a conference be held at which the conflict- 
ing claims could be discussed. 8 Out of this suggestion grew 
the long-lived and troublesome treaty of Tordesillas, of 1494. 
This agreement made no mention of preceding papal grants or 
divisions, and simply stipulated that in the Atlantic there should 
be drawn from pole to pole a division line three hundred and sev- 
enty leagues to the west of the Cape Verde Islands, the lands 
to the west of which should belong to Spain, and those to the 
east, to Portugal. The treaty further provided that within 
ten months a joint expedition of the two countries should sail 
westward the stipulated distance from the Cape Verde Islands 
and, commencing either at the north or the south, mark the 
distance in degrees or leagues, according to which should prove 
most convenient; and where the line cut the land — if such cut 
should take place — a tower of demarcation should be erected. 9 

Ferdinand and Isabella instructed Columbus to be responsi- 
ble for putting the demarcation provisions of the treaty into 
effect in behalf of Spain; and told him to head the Spanish ex- 
pedition himself, if possible. But the demarcation never pro- 
gressed beyond the theoretical stage, for in the year following, 
1495, the two interested governments formally agreed to post- 
pone sending out the joint expedition, in order to have its work 
preceded by a discussion of the fixing of the line by a conference 
of experts. But in the mean time, the Spanish government 
instructed, the demarcation line was to be put on all sailing 
charts. None of these things was done, however: the experts 

7 Harrisse, Diplomatic History, p. 39. 

8 Ibid., pp. 58-70. 

9 Davenport, Treaties, pp. 84-100. 



6 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

never met; the expedition never sailed; and the division line 
was not even placed upon the maps. 10 Not until 1512 do we 
find any mention of as much as an attempt to execute any of 
the stipulations of the treaty made seventeen years before. 11 

Various influences contributed to this neglect, but perhaps 
the most important was the fact that before the flag of Portugal 
was unfurled upon the coast of South America — the only part 
of the New World that could possibly come to that kingdom 
by the terms of the treaty of Tordesillas — Vasco da Gama's 
expedition had reached the East Indies and Portuguese interest 
in that part of the world had been deeply roused. Further- 
more, *the terms of the treaty were confusing. Though the 
Cape Verde Archipelago is nearly three degrees wide, the ar- 
rangement made at Tordesillas failed to state whether the three 
hundred and seventy leagues should be marked from the eastern- 
most, the westernmost, or the central island of the group. The 
famous cartographer, Ferrer, whom the Catholic Sovereigns 
consulted felt that the central island should be the point of de- 
parture, but it seems pretty certain that if the two nations had 
seriously discussed this point at the time, Portugal would have 
insisted upon starting from the island farthest west. 12 

But this question was perhaps not as fruitful of trouble as 
was the uncertainty as to the length of the degree on the equator, 
regarding which there was much difference of opinion among 
scientists; for the method of reckoning longitude was at the time 
very crude and faulty, and there was little agreement as to the 
distance around the earth. There was even lack of agreement 
regarding the length of the marine league. 13 

Such were some of the most important difficulties which would 
have confronted the rival nations had they set earnestly about 
fulfilling the terms of the treaty promptly after its formation. 
Harrisse is of the opinion, however, from a study of the situa- 

10 Harrisse, Diplomatic History, pp. 80-83. 

11 Davenport, Treaties, p. 101. 

12 Harrisse, Diplomatic History, pp. 91-94. 

13 Ibid., pp. 93-94, 152. 



ARGENTINE-BEAZILIAN BOUNDABY SETTLEMENT 7 

tion of the line on Spanish and Portuguese maps that both 
nations believed the true position of the line to be near the Ama- 
zon River, but to the east of it. 14 This would throw it slightly 
to the west of Rio de Janeiro in the south, and in the neighbor- 
hood of the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. 

Magellan's voyage, which gave Spain a western route to the 
Spice Islands and a hold upon the Philippines, stimulated new 
interest in the treaty of Tordesillas, through emphasizing the 
fact that the boundary line for which it provided should bisect 
the antipodes and encircle the globe. Discussion with this in 
view followed. Spain now argued that the point of departure 
in measuring the three hundred and seventy leagues should be 
the easternmost of the Cape Verde Islands; and Portugal, on 
its side, was torn between two ambitions; for it realized that 
the farther the line was extended west in the New World the 
smaller the area in the rich commercial field which it was ex- 
ploiting in the orient could it call its own. Portugal could not 
decide between Brazil and the Moluccas, and, therefore, the 
treaty of Zaragoza which was finally drawn up between Spain 
and Portugal in 1529 provided only for demarcation in the orient. 
Here, the fine of division between the two powers was placed 
two hundred and ninety-seven and a half leagues, or seventeen 
degrees, east of the Moluccas, which shut Spain out of the Philip- 
pines, as well; but by way of compensation Portugal agreed to 
pay Spain three hundred and fifty thousand ducats in gold. 16 
It is noteworthy, however, that if this division line fixed for the 
antipodes had been made to encircle the globe, it would have 
shut Portugal entirely out of the New World. 

As it was, the failure of the rival colonial powers to reach an 
agreement regarding it caused the final delimitation in the west 
to be determined primarily by events in the New World. Dur- 
ing the first half of the sixteenth century the Spaniards were 
especially active in South America, while the Portuguese de- 
voted most of their energy to exploiting their extensive holdings 
in the orient; and several grants made to adventurers show that 

14 Ibid., p. 132. 

16 Davenport, Treaties, pp. 169-199. 



8 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

Spain considered itself entitled to approximately all territory 
lying to the west of the meridian passing just to the east of the 
right mouth of the Amazon. These cessions were made in 
the southern part of the Spanish-Portuguese frontier, for this 
region was more attractive than lands farther north, due to a 
more moderate climate, and took in virtually the whole of the 
present Brazilian territory lying in the south temperate zone. 
Broadly speaking, their northern limit would be marked by a 
line connecting Asunci6n and Cananea, where a Spanish fort 
once stood. 16 

However, only one of the grantees did much towards making 
good the Spanish claims, and this was Alvear Nunez Cabeza 
de Vaca, who, in 1540-41, landed on the Brazilian coast at Santa 
Catharina and marched westward into the interior, to Asun- 
ci6n, recently founded by Irala. The route of Cabeza de Vaca 
seems to have been occasionally employed for a few years sub- 
sequently by other Spaniards desiring to get into the interior. 
But after the founding of Santa Fe, in 1573, and especially after 
Buenos Aires and Corrientes had been established, in the 1580's, 
the Plata River became the doorway to the interior, and the 
dimly marked overland route fell into disuse. 17 

But during the years when the Plata and its tributaries were 
becoming the highway into the great basin of the continent, and 
for a long period following, Spain's policy, due to the Armada 
disaster, the trouble with Flanders, and the union with Portu- 
gal, was less aggressive in the New World than formerly. The 
Indians in the regions drained by the Parana and Uruguay rivers 
were left to the ministrations of the Jesuits, who, while pacify- 
ing the aborigines, extended the possessions of the Spanish 
Crown. During the first three decades of the seventeenth 
century the members of the Society of Jesus made great prog- 
ress, establishing a large number of missions. 18 

16 Carlos A. Aldao, La Cuestidn de Misiones, pp. 40-52. 

17 Alegato de la RepHblica Argentina sobre la ■Cuestidn de Limites con el 
Brasil en el Territorio de Misiones, sometida al Presidente de los Estados Unidos, 
p. 50. 

18 Aldao, Misiones, pp. 70-71. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 9 

But these hieratic communities did not long escape the at- 
tacks of the Paulistas, the bold, restless adventurers from the 
Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, who, with the contempt for aborig- 
inal rights characterizing the frontiersmen of the North Ameri- 
can west, defied alike royal orders and papal bulls and pressed 
deeper and ever deeper into the heart of the continent in search 
of mineral wealth and Indian slaves. The docile, pastoral 
Guaranies of the Jesuit reductions proved a great temptation, 
and many thousands of them were carried off by the Paulistas 
within a few years, 19 causing the Jesuits to abandon Guayra 
as a mission field in the 1630's, and to flee down the River Uru- 
guay with their helpless charges. But towards the close of the 
century the Jesuits reestablished themselves to the east of the 
Uruguay and built seven mission stations; and here they re- 
mained, for the Paulistas were now somewhat diverted from 
their slave-hunting by the discovery of rich mines in the interior 
of Brazil. 

Naturally, the Portuguese were desirous of securing a frontage 
upon the Plata River, and during the period of union with Spain, 
when the question of boundaries was not vital, the settlers of 
Southern Brazil made the most of their opportunity. In fact, 
the Paulistas justified their attacks upon the reductions by the 
statement that these were established upon Portuguese soil. 20 
The treaty of 1668 by which Spain recognized Portuguese inde- 
pendence made no mention of territorial limits in America, 
thus leaving the way open for Portugal to make good its claim. 
Encouraged by the weakness of Spain and the friendliness of 
England, it proceeded to do so, in 1679, by establishing Colonia 
de Sacramento on the nprth shore of the Plata. The settlement 
was promptly captured by Spain, but was soon recovered, and in 
the next few decades it changed hands several times, but by 
the treaty made at Utrecht, in 1713, Colonia, "with its terri- 
tory" was restored to Portugal. Subsequently, open war be- 
tween the governors of Colonia and Buenos Aires took place 
because the latter, after the ratification of the treaty, returned 

"Ibid., pp. 72-74. 

20 Kobert Southey, History of Brazil, II. 578. 



10 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

only the fortress and the land within cannon shot of it; and 
after an indecisive conflict Colonia was still in control of the 
Portuguese. 21 

With the accession of Ferdinand VI. to the Spanish throne, 
in 1746, relations between the two countries greatly improved, 
for Ferdinand's queen was Barbara of Braganza, daughter of 
John V. of Portugal, and Barbara did her utmost to establish 
a real friendship between Spain and Portugal. The "treaty of 
exchange", of 1750, was largely the result of her efforts, supported 
and encouraged by Keene, the English ambassador. 22 This 
document recognized that Spain, through establishing itself 
in the Philippines, in the late sixteenth century, had violated 
the treaty of Zaragoza, while Portugal had exceeded the Torde- 
sillas line in the western world; and admitted that it was im- 
possible to maintain the Tordesillas agreement. Hence, all 
claims founded upon that treaty were definitely annulled, and 
it was agreed that each country should remain in possession of 
what it now held, except for certain reciprocal cessions. Por- 
tugal pledged itself to surrender Colonia and the territory which 
it claimed on the west bank of the Amazon, and to renounce its 
pretensions to the Philippine Islands and some other contro- 
versial claims in the orient; in return for which Spain agreed 
to recognize the remaining Portuguese possessions in the New 
World and to turn over to its neighbor the Seven Reductions 
established on the left bank of the Uruguay. 

It is interesting to note that the territory in the New World 
which Portugal was to secure by this treaty was — thanks to 
Brazilian, and especially Paulista, aggressiveness — several times 
as extensive as that to which it would have been entitled under 
its own interpretation of the treaty of Tordesillas. Even the 
region held by Portugal in southern Brazil to the south and west 
of where the line would have cut was larger than the whole 
area which would have become Portugal's share through falling 
to the east of the line. 



" Ibid., III. 286. 

22 Eafael Altamira y Crevea, Hisioria de Espafia, IV. 59. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 11 

The division line between the colonial possessions, the treaty- 
stated, was to be demarcated by a special joint commission, 
and was, as far as possible, to be a natural one. The boundary 
was described in detail, the portion of the treaty bearing most 
closely upon this present study reading as follows: 

From the mouth of the Ibicui, the line shall run up the course of the 
Uruguay until reaching the river Pepiri, or Pequiri, which empties itself 
by the western bank of the Uruguay; and it shall continue up the bed 
of the Pepiri as far as the principal source thereof; from which it shall 
follow along the highest ground to the principal head of the nearest 
river that may flow into the Rio Grande de Curituba, otherwise named 
Iguacu. The boundary shall continue along the bed of the said river 
nearest to the source of the Pepiri, and, afterwards, along that of the 
Iguacu, or Rio Grande de Curituba, until the point where the same 
Iguacu empties itself by the eastern bank of the Parana, to the point 
where the Igurey joins it on its western bank. 23 

However, there was delay in putting the treaty into effect, 
and when the Spanish commissioner, the Marquis de Valdelirios, 
reached South America, in 1752, he found great local opposition 
to its execution. Though there was some objection in Colonia 
to the transfer, the opposition to handing over the Seven Reduc- 
tions to Portugal was much stronger. Petitions from various 
Spanish lay and ecclesiastical officers opposing the change were 
presented to Valdelirios upon his arrival. Valdelirios, neverthe- 
less, proceeded to cooperate with Gomes Frcyre, governor of 
Rio Janeiro, the representative of Portugal, in carrying out the 
treaty terms; and when the Guaranies of the Reductions in 
question, abetted and supported by the Jesuits, took up 
arms in defense of their rights, Spanish military forces joined 
with those of Portugal and broke the resistance. 24 But this 
Guaranitica War, which ended in 1756, caused further delay; 
and after the resistance of the Indians was broken, the two com- 

23 Statement submitted by the United States of Brazil to the President of the United 
States as Arbitrator under the Provisions of the Treaty concluded September 7, 1889, 
vol. III. (Documents), 3-23. 

24 Tad6as Xavier Henis, Diario histdrico de la Rebelion y Guerra de los Pueblos 
Guaranies. 



12 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

missioners showed only a half-hearted interest in carrying out 
the exchange provisions and in demarcating the boundary. 25 

In the mother countries, meanwhile, indifference, and even 
opposition, to the treaty had developed. Charles, King of Naples, 
brother of Ferdinand VI., learning of the treaty from the Spanish 
minister — the Marquis de Ensenada, who was unfriendly to it — 
protested vigorously to Ferdinand against the agreement; 
and this stimulated the feeling which was growing in Spain that 
Barbara had sacrificed Spanish interests to those of her native 
country. In 1758, Queen Barbara died, and within a twelve- 
month grief over her loss had carried off the king, who was suc- 
ceeded by his brother Charles of Naples, the enemy of the treaty. 
In Portugal, a change of sentiment had appeared with the acces- 
sion of Joseph, who succeeded his father, John V., within a few 
months after the treaty of exchange had been ratified; and this 
was accentuated by the demoralization and financial loss from 
the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the persecution of the Jesuits, 
and the attempt to assassinate the king; but, perhaps, especially 
by the fact that the support of the Portuguese commission was 
causing an excessive drain on the royal treasury. 26 

Accordingly, satisfaction was mutual when, in 1761, a new 
treaty was adopted for the express purpose of annulling that of 
1750. 2 ' 

But before the annulment was effected considerable work 
had been done by the demarcation commissioners provided for 
by the treaty of 1750. The commission had been made up of 
three divisions, and the first, because of the armed resistance of 
the Guaranies, had accomplished nothing; but the other two 
proceeded with but little trouble and accomplished their tasks. 
It is with the labors of the second division, completed in 1759, 
that this study is especially concerned. This demarcation party 
chose for its point of departure into the little-known region to 
be surveyed San Xavier, the Spanish mission nearest to the fron- 
tier, and took along several Guaranies, one of whom, Francis 

25 Southey, Brazil, III. 502. 

28 Ibid. 

27 Statement: Brazil, III. (Documents), 77-80. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 13 

Xavier Arirapy, had seen the Pepiry — or Pepiri, or Pequiry— 
River, which, the treaty stipulated, should form part of the bound- 
ary. The joint party proceeded up the Uruguay until reaching 
a small tributary entering from the north which Arirapy identi- 
fied as the Pepiry. At first the Spanish commissioner was un- 
willing to accept the statement of the guide, because the stream 
seemed too small and its location did not coincide with that 
given on the special map with which the commission had been 
supplied; but after the party had, at his request, proceeded 
farther up the Uruguay, he declared himself satisfied that the 
river identified by Arirapy was the stream named in the bound- 
ary treaty. 28 The latitude taken at the river was 27° 9' 23", 
but conditions were unfavorable for securing measurements of 
longitude. 29 

Due to shortage of food supplies and other handicaps, the 
expedition did not explore the Pepiry to its source, but, instead, 
returned and proceeded up the Parana to the Iguazu, and con- 
tinued along the latter till reaching a southern tributary to which 
they gave the same San Antonio. After exploring this stream, 
they decided that its headwaters could not be far from those of 
the Pepiry, and, consequently, they surveyed it and placed the 
demarcation line along its borders, and connected this line with 
the headwaters of a river rising opposite, which they believed 
to be the Pepiry. 30 

Since the treaty giving origin to it was annulled two years 
after the work of the commission was ended, the results of its 

28 Ibid., I. 88-92. The Spanish commissioner had been doubtful because the 
latitude and position of the river identified by the guide did not agree with those 
given on the map issued by the courts of the two governments for the use of the 
expedition. But, upon proceeding farther up the Uruguay, he found that other 
statements made by Arirapy were borne out by his own observations. And, 
furthermore, he discovered that the map of the courts — which the commission 
had been instructed to ignore if it failed to agree with the facts — was in conflict 
with some of the maps made by the Jesuits who had some acquaintance with the 
region; and that these Jesuit maps supported the statements of the guide. — 
Ibid., pp. 86-88. 

29 Ibid., p. 94. 

30 Ibid., pp. 101-109. The headwaters, as was proven by a later commission, 
were not those of the Pepiry but of a stream flowing into the Parana. 



14 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

labors were of no immediate significance; but both the treaty and 
the report of the commission were of the greatest importance in 
the final settlement of the boundary controversy between Brazil 
and Argentina a century and a half later; and, therefore, their 
results should be borne in mind. 

In the conflicts between Spain and Portugal, which followed 
the accession of Charles III. bad feeling was reflected in the 
colonies by repeated attacks on Colonia. When the treaty of 
San Ildefonso was made between the two countries, in 1777, 
the place was in control of Spain, which was permitted by treaty 
to keep it. Portugal now definitely gave up its claim on the 
Philippine Islands also. By the treaty, the two countries again 
agreed to appoint a joint commission for the demarcation of 
their colonial boundary, which, in the middle portion, was to 
be the Pepiry-Guazu, 31 or Pequiry, and the San Antonio, as 
provided by the annulled treaty of 1750. 32 

The commission provided for was sent out belatedly in 
1788. And though thirty years had elapsed since the first joint 
survey had been made, the frontier in question was still a wilder- 
ness and the rivers mentioned in the treaty were declared by the 
joint instructions of the Spanish and Portuguese courts to be 
distant from all settlements that could give aid to the commis- 
sioners. 33 After some difficulty, the party found and marked 
with a copper plate the river identified by the commission of 
1759 as the Pepiry, and also found and identified the San An- 
tonio. 34 But, in 1790, after this had been accomplished, Varela, 
the Spanish commissioner, made the assertion that the preceding 
commission had made a mistake in the stream that it had identi- 
fied as the Pepiry, and declared that the true Pepiry was a more 
copious river found two years before, in 1788, by Gundin, the 
Spanish geographer, sixteen leagues to the east of the Pepiry 

31 Guacti, or Guaz-A, is a Guarany word meaning great, or large, and was ap- 
plied to the Pepiry shortly after the first commission had completed its work, 
evidently to distinguish that river from some smaller stream of the same name. 

82 Statement: Brazil, III. (Documents), 89-90. 

33 Ibid., p. 109. 

84 Ibid., I. 210-212; Diego de Alvear, "Diario de la Secunda Partida de Limites 
en la America Meridional," in Anales de la Biblioteca, III. 402-459. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 15 

of the commission of 1759. Hot discussion followed between 
the chief commissioners, but a joint survey of the stream dis- 
covered by Gundin was finally made. 35 Subsequently, Varela 
instructed Oyarvide, another Spanish geographer, to look for 
another river whose headwaters could be connected with those 
of the stream of Gundin, explaining that the existence of such 
a river might induce the two governments to choose it for a 
boundary instead of the San Antonio. 86 Oyarvide followed 
instructions and, in June, 1791, found the stream desired 
and called it the San Antonio-Guazu. 37 The Portuguese commis- 
sioner, and his government, however, refused to accept such a 
decision, and the boundary was again left unsettled. 

Spain was soon afterwards deeply embarrassed by the wars 
following the French Revolution, and Portugal joyfully seized 
the opportunity to score against its old rival in South America. 
The mission Indians had, following the Guaranitfca War and 
the expulsion of the Jesuits, been ruled directly by a Spanish 
royal governor who oppressed them sorely. Hence, when the 
Portuguese governor of Rio Grande took up arms against the 
region in 1801 he found the aborigines quite ready to desert 
to the old enemy, and soon they were under Brazilian jurisdic- 
tion. 38 The treaty of Badajoz — made the same year — which 
established peace between Spain and Portugal in the Old World 
and the New was based upon the principle of mutual restora- 
tion and compensation, but as no special mention was made 

35 Statement: Brazil, I. 210-211. Alvear, the Spanish commissioner, called 
attention to the fact that the Pepiry was located on the map of the courts above 
the mouth of the Uruguay-Pita Biver; and stated in a letter to Boscio, his Portu- 
guese associate, that this Pepiry had been found "with the features that char- 
acterize it, of being full-flowing, and having a wooded island opposite its mouth, 
and a large reef within its mouth". Thus he applied to the Pepiry of the treaty 
of 1750 the characteristics of the river discovered in 1788, and insinuated that 
in 1759 the Pepiry was known by these features. From this foundation grew 
definite assertions by Spain at a later date that the instructions to the com- 
missioners of 1759 contained such a description of the river; and these assertions 
were also used by Argentina in the arguments by which it supported its claim to 
a boundary line following the river discovered by Gundin.— Ibid., pp. 64-67. 

38 Alvear, "Diario," in Anales, III. 436-457. 

87 Ibid., 459. 

38 Southey, Brazil, III. 687-688. 



16 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

of the Seven Reductions, Portugal failed to give them up ; and 
all subsequent efforts of Spain to make it do so were in vain. 39 

When, in 1808, the Braganza family fled to Brazil before the 
armies of Napoleon, special advantages for encroachment were 
offered Portugal ; for soon revolt against Joseph Bonaparte and 
in favor of independence took place in Argentina, and Brazilian 
troops were sent into the Misiones district under pretext of 
keeping order. Continued dissensions at Buenos Aires enabled 
Brazil to seize the whole region to the east of the Uruguay River 
and incorporate it as the Provincia Cisplatina; but war between 
Brazil and Argentina took place over the region, as a result of 
which, in 1828, that long debatable ground was made the in- 
dependent republic of Uruguay with a frontage on the Plata; 
and thus a long stretch of the frontier between Brazil and Ar- 
gentina was removed as a bone of contention between the two 
countries. 40 Likewise, during the struggle for independence in 
Spanish America Paraguay freed itself from jurisdiction of 
Buenos Aires: 41 Thus, early in the nineteenth century the 
boundary dispute between Brazil and Argentina was reduced to 
the narrow strip of the old frontier lying between the Uruguay 
and the Iguazii rivers; and in this region, Brazil, blessed with 
comparative peace and order under the Empire, proceeded to 
establish itself, while Argentina was distracted by civil wars 
and the tyranny of Rosas's rule. It seems impossible from 
available evidence to determine when the first permanent 
Brazilian settlers went into the territory in dispute, but a few 
isolated ones were already there in 1838, when the colony of 
Campo de Palmas was founded by the Brazilian state of Sao 
Paulo; and other colonies soon followed. 42 

In 1857, after Rosas had been overthrown with the aid of 
Brazil and Urquiza was at the head of the Argentine govern- 
ment, a treaty was drawn up between the two countries which 

39 Statement: Brazil, I. 7-11; La Frontera Argentino-Brasilena, II. 98-102. 

40 By treaties made between Brazil and Uruguay in 1851 and 1852 a common 
boundary line was agreed upon. JoSo Ribeiro, Historia do Brasil, pp. 457-458. 

41 Paraguay's boundary disputes with Argentina and Brazil were settled after 
the Paraguayan War. 

42 Alegato: Argentina, pp. 275-276; Statement: Brazil, I. 253. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 



17 



fixed the boundary between them as the rivers Pepiry and San 
Antonio identified and named by the commission of 1759. How- 
ever, before the agreement could be submitted to the Argentine 
congress 43 the personnel of that body was changed, with the 
result that congressional approval carried with it the stipula- 
tion that the rivers called Pepiry and San Antonio by the com- 



£,.<«*». CVtW'»*» 




Disputed Territory with Relation to Neighboring Nations 



mission of 1789 be accepted as the boundary fine. But to this 
Brazil would not consent, and the agreement was never adopted. 44 

48 It was understood by the Argentine government that if Argentina ratified 
the treaty Brazil would give Urquiza moral and material aid towards bringing 
about the incorporation of the refractory province of Buenos Aires with the 
Republic. — Statement: Brazil, III. (Documents), 174. 

44 Alegato: Argentina, pp. 82, 176. 



18 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

Soon after this futile attempt Brazil began building a road 
across the disputed territory — which at the time formed the 
judicial district of Palmas in the state of Parana — to Corrientes, 
and displayed other signs of proprietorship; whereupon Argentina, 
now stronger and more certain of itself, protested and prepared 
for war. 46 But the insane insolence of the Paraguayan dictator, 
Lopez, temporarily removed all danger of hostilities over the 
old boundary dispute, and, instead, brought Brazil and Argen- 
tine into a military alliance with Uruguay against Paraguay. 
Nevertheless, as soon as the Paraguayan War had terminated, 
bad feeling over the so-called "Misiones boundary question" 
became more acute than before; and in 1876 discussion with a 
view to settlement was again begun, but, as no basis of agreement 
could be reached,, the matter was once more dropped. 46 

In conformity with a plan which seems to have been projected 
as early as 1859, Brazil, in 1880, took steps towards the estab- 
lishment of two military colonies — ostensibly for protecting the 
frontier against Indians — to the west of the rivers Chapeco and 
Chopim — streams which the Argentine government had come to 
identify with the Pepiry and the San Antonio of the commission 
of 1789. A strip of land ten leagues wide, the imperial decree 
stated, was to be set aside on the east banks of the San Antonio 
and the Pepiry — of the commission of 1759 — for cultivation by 
military colonists. 47 The following year the colonizing expedi- 
tion was sent out; 48 but the Argentine government, learning 
of the plan through the press, protested against it on the ground 
that the territory of Argentina extended as far east as the Chapeco 
and the Chopim rivers. 49 Presumably because of the resent- 
ment displayed by Argentina, the Brazilian government — now 
timid because of the internal troubles which soon led to the 
overthrow of the Empire — ordered the military colonies to 
withdraw from the frontier and to settle to the east of the disputed 
territory; and this relieved the mind of Argentina for a brief 

45 Ibid., p. 280. 

46 Statement: Brazil, I. 247-251. 
"Ibid., p. 251. 

48 Argument for the Argentine Republic, I. 617. 

49 Statement: Brazil, I. 251. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 19 

period. Soon afterwards, however — probably goaded into a 
more aggressive policy by the attacks of the parliamentary 
opposition led by Baron de Cotegipe — the imperial government 
gave orders for the soldiers to advance into the very heart of 
the area in dispute; and the military settlements of Santa Ana 
and Campo Er6 were, accordingly, founded. 50 

Argentina had long claimed the disputed territory as part 
of the Misiones district, which for many years was administered 
by the state of Corrientes; but, in 1881, urged by Brazilian 
activity in the region, the Argentine government created the 
Misiones into a separate territory, thus bringing it directly 
under federal control. 61 This action in turn roused the Bra- 
zilian government to propose that negotiations be opened for 
the definite settlement of the boundary disagreement. Argen- 
tina expressed its willingness, whereupon Brazil suggested that 
the unratified convention of 1857 be used as a basis, and that 
in the agreement a definition of the rivers Pepiry and San An- 
tonio as the streams demarcated by the Spanish-Portuguese 
joint commission of 1759 be inserted. But Argentina refused, 
as before, and held out for the acceptance of the line along the 
rivers demarcated farther east by the commission of 1789. 62 
Brazil would not agree to this, but proposed that a new joint 
commission be appointed to survey the four rivers bounding 
the disputed area. Argentina consented, a treaty with this 
in view was made in 1885, and between the years 1887 and 1890 
such a survey was made. 63 

The group of men sent out jointly by Brazil and Argentina 
made the first comprehensive survey of the long-disputed region, 
and revealed the fact that the river explored by the Spaniard 
Oyarvide in 1791 and called by him the San Antonio was not, as 
the Argentines had hitherto supposed, the stream known to 
the Brazilians as the Chopim, but one farther east and called 
in Brazil the Jangada. 54 

69 Alegato: Argentina, pp. 95-96. 

51 Statement: Brazil, I. 265. 

62 Ibid., pp. 266-267. 

™Ibid., III. (Documents), 181-189. 

64 La Frontera Argentino-Brasilena, I. 412-518; Statement: Brazil, I. 271-273. 



20 



THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 



Some time before the work of the commission was completed, 
however, the Argentine government suggested that the dis- 
puted territory be divided by a geometrical mean line, the ex- 
pense of surveying to be shared equally. But Brazil refused to 
consider such a settlement and urged arbitration instead, should 
direct agreement prove impossible. And though Argentina was 
at first little inclined to risk its claims to a third party, a treaty 
was signed at Buenos Aires, September 7, 1889, which provided 
that should the ownership of the territory in dispute not be settled 
within ninety days following the report of surveys of the joint 




Disputed Territory 

boundary commission to their governments, the question should 
be submitted to arbitration. Ratification of the agreement took 
place promptly. 55 But a few days following this the Brazilian 
Empire fell and the republic was proclaimed. 

This revolution changed the face of the situation, for the domi- 
nant party in Argentina had shown much friendship for the 
anti-imperialists, and the Argentine government was the first 
to recognize and welcome the new republic. 56 The weak pro- 
visional government of Brazil, fearing to jeopardize its position 

55 Statement: Brazil, I. 274. 

56 Alegaio: Argentina, pp. 199-200. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 21 

and add to the chaos at home by incurring the enmity of Argen- 
tina through a firm stand on the boundary dispute, decided to 
settle the dispute "to the best interests of the nation", and on 
January 25, 1890, a treaty was made at Montevideo, providing 
for the division of the contested territory by a mean line. 67 The 
partition agreement seems to have met with general favor in 
Argentina, but in Brazil a large element denounced and bewailed 
it; and one of the leaders of the opposition grimly declared that 
finally the territory of Palmas had "undergone the great test 
of the judgment of Solomon". A special committee of the 
Brazilian government appointed to study the treaty of Mon- 
tevideo reported in favor of rejection of the agreement, and its 
recommendation was indorsed by the Brazilian congress, August 
10,, 1891, by a vote of one hundred and forty-two ayes to five 
nayes. 58 

This action threw the two governments back upon the treaty 
of arbitration, which had specifically mentioned the president 
of the United States as arbitrator. President Grover Cleveland 
accepted the task, and, as provided by the treaty, within the 
following year the two contestants filed at Washington the evi- 
dence in support of their respective claims. In the Argentine 
argument stress was laid upon the fact that the territory in 
dispute was far to the west of the Tordesillas line, and that it 
was first traversed and formally claimed by Spaniards ; it declared 
that the commissioners of 1759, on whose work Brazil largely 
based its claim, had disobeyed instructions and selected as its 
boundary a river which did not correspond with the evidence 
provided in their instructions; 59 that the commission of 1789 
had corrected the error through finding the real Pepiry River; 
and that the territory had been first settled by Spain and had 
been occupied by Spain and then by its heir, Argentina, con- 
tinuously down to the present. 60 Brazil, on its part, contended 
that the line described by the treaty of Tordesillas had never 

67 Statement: Brazil, III. (Documents), 201-203. 
^Ibid., I. 274-276; III. 211. 

69 Argentina weakened its case through making use of incorrect statements 
made by Spain a century earlier. See above, note 35. 
60 Alegato: Argentina. 



22 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 

been demarcated; that the demarcation of 1759-60 had been 
made in conformity with the annulled treaty of 1750, which was 
the basis of the treaty of 1777, and with the instructions 
drawn up for its execution, as well as with the local tradition 
and the maps published by the Jesuits who had lived near the 
region in dispute; that the rivers claimed as the boundary by 
Argentina as a result of the report of the Spanish members of 
the commission of 1789 were too far east to correspond with the 
evidence supplied by the documents used as basis for the Treaty 
of 1750; and it showed conclusively that Spain had not only 
never occupied the territory actually in dispute, but that Argen- 
tina had not done so and — as the map made by the recent Bra- 
zilian-Argentine commission showed— it did not even occupy 
the territory now; while, as the survey of the same commission 
made clear, of the 5,793 inhabitants of the region, 5,763 were 
Brazilians— the remaining thirty being aliens, not Argentines. 61 
The arbitration treaty had stipulated that the arbitrator 
should be asked simply to study the evidence which should be 
submitted and from it render an award in favor of the one country 
or the other— in favor of the Pepiry and San Antonio line of the 
commission of 1759 or the Jangada (San Antonio-Guazti) and 
Chapec6 (Pepiry-Guazu) claimed by Argentine on the basis of 
the statements of the Spanish commissioners of 1789. Cleve- 
land's award, rendered February 5, 1895, was in favor of the 
contentions of Brazil, and named the westernmost two rivers as 
the boundary between the republics. 62 This decision gave the 
victor an extensive fertile area covering nearly twelve hundred 
square miles. 63 By the arbitration treaty the two governments 
had also agreed that whatever award was given should be regarded 
as definitive and obligatory, and nothing was to be alleged as a 
reason for its non-fulfillment; and, though there were hostile 
sputterings from part of the press of the country, the Argentine 
government loyally accepted the adverse decision. In reply 

81 Statement: Brazil. 

62 The Misiones Award (Special Bulletin Bureau of American Republics), 
pp. 3-4. 

63 Statement: Brazil, I. 3. 



ARGENTINE-BRAZILIAN BOUNDARY SETTLEMENT 23 

to a communication from the president of Brazil, President 
Uribuni of Argentina sent the following telegram: 

Both peoples have the honor of showing to the world a practical 
application of the principle of international arbitration, and the Argen- 
tine nation, although not favored in the decision of the high judge to 
whom the solution of the ancient controversy was entrusted, congratu- 
lates itself on the disappearance of the only possible cause of dissen- 
sion with its former ally, with which its constant desire is to bind closer 
its relations with the ties of friendship and common interest. 64 

A few years subsequently a joint commission of the two gov- 
ernments surveyed the boundary line and marked it plainly 
with permanent monuments of masonry. No hint of discord 
appears to have risen between the commissioners in connection 
with their labors; and in 1904 their work was completed and 
approved by the governments concerned. 66 Thus was elim- 
inated the last chance for a hitch over the boundary settlement 
between the two neighboring nations. 

Maky Wilhelmine Williams, 

Gaucher College. 

64 Misiones Award, p. 16. 

66 La Frontera Argentino-Brasilena, passim.